‘Fearless in front of the camera’

On a high with ‘Arjun Reddy’, Vijay Deverakonda discusses what makes him an uninhibited actor

August 30, 2017 02:48 pm | Updated 02:49 pm IST

Vijay Deverakonda

Vijay Deverakonda

The Arjun Reddy rage is yet to subside and Vijay Deverakonda is slowly getting used to the attention. It hasn’t sunk in, he admits, when we meet him at his office. Given a choice, he would catch up on the Game of Thrones episodes he’s missed rather than answering his phone.

Excerpts from a free-wheeling conversation:

Your first prominent role was in Yevade Subramanyam . Then there was Pellichoopulu . Were you besieged with dos and don’ts after your first big hit?

I don’t think anyone knows what scripts work and what don’t. I got a lot of vague advice — ‘be careful’, ‘ jagratha bro’. Even now I get told that. Ram Gopal Varma was the only one who gave me crystal clear guidelines. What he said seemed sensible, but it’s a different thing whether I will abide by them. I’m not sure if career can be planned. You react to a film or a script. No two people react to things the same way and even the same person reacts differently at a different time.

You aren’t bound by an image, which helped in Arjun Reddy . Would you like to have that flexibility 10 years down the line?

That’s the happiest space to be in, not having to do films out of obligation. I hope I can continue to do films with content that I can relate to.

You signed a handful of films after Pellichoopulu . Was each one of them chosen by merit of the script?

Let’s say I was truly excited about most of them. I made one or two technical calls, hoping they would be a safety net if something else doesn’t work. I come from a place where getting a call to do a film is a big thing. I would work double hard to better a partly-convincing film than be without work.

In Arjun Reddy , you seemed uninhibited in the scenes of alcohol and drug overdose. Would you attribute that to your theatre training?

I’d attribute it to my fearlessness in front of the camera. And, I also worked with a director who isn’t scared.

Were there any real-life or cinematic references?

When Sandeep (Reddy Vanga) was narrating the script, I could visualise a few scenes and Arjun’s body language and how he would speak — neither high pitched nor low pitched, doesn’t smile unnecessarily, and so on. We incorporated all this; Sandeep added more character traits. Arjun’s posture is like an ‘alpha male’. There weren’t any cinematic references, but I watched serious films like The Godfather,Goodfellas and Scarface than rom-coms to remain in that zone. Maybe subconsciously it helped.

When you finished shooting disturbing scenes and retired for the day, were you able to dissociate from the character?

It drained me and left me moody. I found that I was becoming impatient. I might have had more patience with room service or with my staff earlier. It also depends on the unit. Sandeep loses his cool if someone is incompetent; even that rubbed off on me.

Your father (Govardhan Rao Deverakonda) worked in television, isn’t it?

We come from a family of farmers in Achampet (Mehboobnagar). My father came to Hyderabad to become an actor, took an acting course and realised he was camera conscious. He felt he’d be a better director but getting a breakthrough was a nightmare. Satellite channels were opening up and he ventured into television series. There wasn’t much money and scripts weren’t exciting. A few production houses asked dad to direct for them. He comes from a ‘dora’ mindset of not wanting to work for others. So he got real estate people from the village to invest. They did it just to see their names on TV. But they backed out when payments were delayed. Then dad worked on ad films for the government and it kept us going. Dad is my staunch supporter. He is so happy for me today.

When were you drawn to acting?

After B.Com final year, I trained with Sutradhar theatre group and did my first play ‘ Sherlock Home’ at Bhaskara Auditorium. In theatre, there’s instant feedback. I felt so cool when I saw appreciation in people’s eyes. I didn’t have a set up to decide I’d be an actor, but I felt this is what I liked to do.

All eyes are on you now. What’s next?

There’s a supernatural thriller directed by Rahul Sankrityan, produced by Geetha Arts and UV Creations. Again, we had the freedom to move away from a regular film template and it’s been great fun. We’re looking at a year-end release.

Telangana dialect: The actor speaks a distinct Telangana dialect in Arjun Reddy . While it was an extension of the way he speaks off-screen, Vijay says it was also structured for the character. “Sandeep wanted Arjun to be real and rooted, and used words like ‘yaralu’ (sister in law), which aren’t commonly used.”

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